The Unavoidable Struggle of Required Physical Education

Students fail to meet the goals and find time for an unnecessary class


Olivia Edwards, Staff Writer

The FitnessGram™ Pacer Test is a multistage aerobic capacity test that progressively gets more difficult as it continues. The 20 meter pacer test will begin in 30 seconds. On your mark, get ready, start.

No words have been dreaded more by high school students. After taking two gym courses, I will say that gym is a burden me and for other students as well. I was not interested in the curriculum of either two of my three required classes, and by the whispers and murmurs during instruction time, I could tell not a lot of my classmates were either. The running gets tiring and every day is the same. However, there is a difference between despising gym class because of a student’s unwillingness to get in shape and disliking it for other, more complex reasons that most administrators don’t take into account. The lack of effort has several underlying causes that most physical education teachers don’t take into consideration.

Students don’t feel compelled to participate in any sort of activity because the student may not be able to adequately reach the goal set by the teacher. Whether it’s cardiovascular exercise, muscle strength or flexibility, the vast majority of human beings on planet Earth don’t have bodies built to excel in each fitness component. Unfortunately, when students don’t reach the goal, it reflects negatively on their self-confidence. Gym is just like any other class. If a student fails to meet their goal, they become discouraged and begin to give less effort each and every time something is asked of them. This starts the futile cycle of gym teachers yelling at students for “not trying their best” when really, they’re afraid to try again after a failure.

The Pacer is set to measure cardiovascular endurance, which is how long one can keep running without taking a break. Students take this test once a week and are expected to complete 85 by the end of the nine week semester if you’re a female and 115 if you’re a male. For girls, it is manageable. The catch to this test is that the entirety of the class – girls and boys alike – are trained to 80. Males are expected to increase their score by 35 in the final week before the Pacer test. According to the California Department of Education, a 16-year-old female should score 32 on the pacer and a male should score 47 in order to be considered in the healthy target zone. This means males are running more than double what they should to be in the ideal target area. As previously mentioned, getting a certain score on the Pacer is a common long-term goal many people have. However, the 85 or 115 goal is ridiculous, hardly fair and plays into the discouragement several students feel when they’re unable to meet the standards.

Physical education classes also allow for more bullying to occur. Labels are everything to students. As soon as students begin running for the first time, everybody in the class becomes either “lazy” or “a try-hard” and there is no in between. With only four teachers and 100 kids in the gym at once, there aren’t even enough teachers to pick up on inappropriate behavior. It’s easy for the students to keep their actions concealed from the teachers, especially in the locker room. There are five full rows of lockers, but somehow all the girls end up with a locker in the same two rows. It’s intimidating and uncomfortable getting dressed next to so many strangers. Body image is important to teenagers, but everyone is different. Taking a look around in the locker room allows for declining self-confidence issues as well, furthering the negative effect of gym class.

There’s a large majority of people who just aren’t interested in the curriculum gym entails and that’s acceptable. I’m included in this category, with the sense that I prefer arts over sports.  If a student dislikes core classes and isn’t interested in pursuing any academic classes beyond high school level, electives are the only hope students have at enjoying their schedules. There is no reason they should be required to take an elective class, which again should be a class students are interested in exploring, that won’t teach them valuable life skills that will stick with them after high school. Required core classes will bring skills to the table, such as writing for English and problem-solving for math, that will assist students in college or their workfield. Cross Training I and Cross Training II have taught me no important information that I’ve kept with me. Maybe a few of the other choices for physical education credits do, but so far in my high school career, I feel as if I learned nothing in my two gym classes. I would’ve enjoyed my time more had I have had time to sign up for a different elective. If physical education classes have any true note-worthy content, this information could be learned in a short lecture in health class.

Similarly, the lack of time a student’s schedule interferes with registering for required classes. With all the other required courses, the list of graduation requirements drags on and on. Most days are composed of required classes such as English, history, science and math. On top of it all, a large final is assigned that several kids struggle with at the end of the semester.

Required gym courses are as useful as pouring gasoline into a car with a broken transmission. It’s not going to help students excel in their courses. Every day is the same: a warm-up run, stretching, sprints and a game. This keeps kids bored with the curriculum, which means they’re more likely to screw around and more likely to despise gym courses. With optional physical education classes, students could sign up as they please if they do have an interest in the typical physical education activities. This would keep kids interested in their electives and give them more time to explore their interests they hope to pursue in college and beyond. The purpose required gym classes currently have in a student’s life is completely minimal and unnecessary.